Why is there a tomato on the seder plate? This tomato brings our attention to the oppression and liberation of farmworkers who harvest fruits and vegetables here in the United States. And it reminds of us of our power to help create justice.

A tomato purchased in the United States between November and May was most likely picked by a worker in Florida. On this night when we remember the Jewish journey from slavery to freedom, we remember numerous cases of modern slavery that have been found in the Florida tomato industry. The tomato on our seder plate might have been picked by someone who has been enslaved.

Slavery is just the extreme end of a continuum of abuse; perhaps this tomato was picked by someone facing other abusive working conditions, such as wage theft, violence, sexual harassment, exposure to dangerous pesticides, or poverty level wages—just fifty cents for every 32-lb bucket of tomatoes picked and hauled—that have not changed for more than 30 years.

But a transformation is underway. Since 1993, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a farmworker organization in Florida, has been organizing for justice in the fields. Together with student groups, secular human rights organizations, and religious groups have convinced 11 major corporations, such as McDonald’s and Trader Joe’s, to join the Fair Food Program. Not only does the Fair Food program raise the wages of tomato workers, it also requires companies to source tomatoes from growers that agree to a code of conduct in the fields which includes a zero tolerance policy for forced labor and sexual harassment. Since 2011, when more than 90% of Florida’s tomato growers began to implement the agreement, over $8 million has been distributed from participating retailers to workers.

haggadah Section: Karpas
Source: Haggadot.com